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I'm not sure if this has been posted or not but since I've dealt with (and am currently dealing with) orphaned kittens who go through Fading Kitten Syndrome, I figured I would post the symptoms that they teach us to recognize at our emergency vet clinic, photos included at the end for those who are unable to handle images in these matters.

Fading Kitten Syndrome:

Symptoms:
In emergency cases, if your kitten or cat experiences any of these symptoms take the cat to an emergency veterinary location immediately. It can take any time from minutes to a hour before Fading Kitten Syndrome becomes fatal. Recognizing symptoms and catching them early can save your kitten from some dangerous situations.

weight loss- the first sign that you have an unhealthy kitten, poor nutrition will eventually lead to FKS if not addressed quickly. Consult your veterinarian for proper kitten nutrition and possible supplements.

weakness- the kitten is unable to stand, wobbly, or unable to lift the head, but is alert. Your kitten is in the first stages of immobilization. Following weakness is lethargic behavior. Catching this early is vital to the kitten's health.

lethargic - if the kitten is not moving around much or responding, appears "sleepy" all the time and won't nurse. Do not feed a lethargic kitten.

Immobilization- the final stage of weakness in FKS, the kitten becomes "floppy" and is no longer able to support its own head or extremities. Never feed a kitten in this state. If you live far away from the emergency vet, rub light karo syrup or light corn syrup on the gums before heading to the vet.

unable to nurse- the kitten is refusing to nurse from the queen, is refusing a bottle, is 'wandering' away from the warmth of the nursing litter/queen, or is unable to swallow/is too weak to suckle. Never force a kitten to nurse or bottle-feed. Tube feeding should be done by a veterinarian and only attempted after the owner has demonstrated the ability to tube feed to a veterinarian.

coldness to the extremities (hypothermia)- the kitten will feel cold to the touch, if it is old enough it may shiver (severe hypothermic cats and kittens will not shiver). Do not feed or attempt to feed a cold kitten, they do not digest the formula and they may aspirate it.

dehydration- gently scruff the kitten then let go, if the skin takes longer than 2 seconds to go back into place then your kitten is dehydrated. At this point you need to take him to the vet to be given fluids. These fluids are different from water and formula as they include life-saving electrolytes which can prevent Kitten Fading Syndrome before the dehydration becomes too great.

pale gums or skin- check the gums in the mouth, the skin around the nose, near the anus. If the skin or gums are paler than usual it is cause for concern. Know what your cat/kitten's gums look like before illness so you have a healthy color to compare to. Do not feed a kitten with pale gums unless told to do so by a veterinarian.

Respiratory distress- this happens towards the end of KFS where the kitten appears to be gasping for air. At this point you have anywhere from minutes to a half hour to get your kitten to an emergency vet. The kitten needs to be put on oxygen and possibly be put on other respiratory support.

It is very important to catch FKS early. I am going to include images below this paragraph. Please realize that the majority of the kittens in the images have long since been adopted and are happy and healthy due to my professional training and ability to recognize the symptoms. Some symptoms are more noticeable than others.



1. Weight loss, Hypothermia, Lethargy, Pale Gums. This was a 10 week old kitten that was turned over to me. He experienced weight loss due to his queen abandoning him as a stray. He was hypothermic and shivering because the person who turned found him bathed him with Dawn to get rid of fleas. His gums were white. Because he was lethargic I did not feed him right away to prevent choking. I warmed him up with towels from the dryer and took him immediately to the vet. This one ended up having flea anemia which is when there are/were so many fleas that the blood supply is low. This kitten got a blood transfusion, IV fluids, and was put in an incubator to stay warm. He was fed a special diet called Recovery to help him to gain weight and stabilize his system. Sadly, despite all our efforts, he didn't make it.

Angel, photos taken upon arrival to the house:
Notice the inability to hold his head up:

Attempting to stand, weakness.



2. Weakness, weight loss, dehydration. Ducky came to me in this state, we found her in our feral colony after her queen had been TNR'd. The Queen had not been released due to our lack of knowledge of her litter (she was completely dry and the kittens weren't hanging around feeding stations). Ducky had been eating dirt and leaves during her mothers absence. Her bad nutrition caused weakness, weight loss, diarrhea and dehydration. She was very skinny, wobbly and unstable, it took a huge effort for her to stand up. After fluids from the vet and some good nutrition she grew and was adopted last week. :butterfly

Ducky was emaciated and is so weak she has her legs drawn close underneath her body to keep herself upright:


After three weeks of good nutrition she was healthy, happy, and ready to go up for adoption:


3. Immobilization, inability to nurse,weight loss, hypothermia, respiratory distress. Ray is a part of my current bottle feeders. In my 9 years of rescue, I've had 5 kittens reach respiratory distress despite my knowledge and professional care at the vet clinic. Ray has survived the past 8 hours with round-the-clock care from me and a team of emergency vets that have had to be called three times despite my nursing background in the veterinary field. Ray kept secluding himself away from the other two kittens. He became lethargic despite my efforts to stop Fading Kitten Syndrome. His severe case of FKS was brought on by some nasty diarrhea. The diarrhea started at 12pm today. By 3pm he was eating less and had already lost 5 grams of body weight (this is a lot for a 11 day old kitten). By 5pm he was unable to nurse and had become dehydrated. By 5:15pm he was hypothermic and completely immobilized. Around 5:20 he went into respiratory distress. After being incubated, given oxygen support and fluid therapy he began to get better. He was also given dextrose because he was becoming hypoglycemic. He's now doing a little better, he is able to move but is still weak and unable to nurse. We are keeping him warm, if he's removed from warmth for longer than 5 minutes he becomes lethargic and hypothermic again. He's the first kitten in my 9 years that has survived after going into respiratory distress, his prognosis is good. :yellbounce

Immobilization: Ray was unable to move, support his head, or his limbs.



Weakness: Ray is able to move, support his head and limbs, but is too weak to right himself.
 

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Aww, I love Ducky and I'm so glad she made it to grow into such a beautiful, healthy and loved kitty! I'm really sad that little guy #1 didn't make it, and I'm sending prayers (and the kitties are sending crossed paws) your way that little Ray will make it. I'm also sad I couldn't see more pics. :( After reading your descriptions, I think Bear had FKS when I took him to the vet the second night I had him and the vet didn't think he'd make it. He was dehydrated (from rampant diarrhea due to parasites), hypothermic (we had washed the diarrhea off multiple times and even though we dried him each time with a hairdryer on low, it still apparently chilled him way too much) and still had a ton of parasites and diarrhea. The vet put him on Recovery food too, and antibiotics and probiotics, and we kept him with a warm bottle of water, or in my shirt, or in a carrier on top of a heating pad and towels, and thankfully my little trooper made it through. That was almost 3 months ago, and he's now a solid 5.5 lbs, healthy, and happy (and spoiled rotten)!
 

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In my experience as a breeder, feeding a kitten with FKS or repeatedly putting it back with momacat to nurse has never been successful. After a day or 2 of little if any nursing, it weakens, gets cold and voluntarily crawls away from the litter to the farthest corner of the kittening box---nature's instinct that impels the kitten to crawl away so it doesn't foul the box by it decomposition and attracting parasites. The momacat never shows any concern over a FKS kitten, likely for the reason that there's "something wrong" with it and that it will not survive, nor is she distressed when the kitten is removed when it dies.
 

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We've experienced this. I didn't know it had a name. We've only had one survive in 6 years. We named her Spirit. She is a big spoiled girl now. I went home so many nights convinced she wasn't going to make it thru the night. Its heart wrenching to go the FKS with these babies. I didn't see the photos either. Thanks for sharing.

This is one of the reason we've lost people who bottle feed kittens. Its just so hard when you loose a kitten to FKS.
 

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yea...

We've experienced this. I didn't know it had a name. We've only had one survive in 6 years. We named her Spirit. She is a big spoiled girl now. I went home so many nights convinced she wasn't going to make it thru the night. Its heart wrenching to go the FKS with these babies. I didn't see the photos either. Thanks for sharing.

This is one of the reason we've lost people who bottle feed kittens. Its just so hard when you loose a kitten to FKS.
It really does seem like this info should be out there more than it is (I had no idea either). I feel like rescues should circulate it within their organizations. I know if I tried bottle feeding and my kittens died despite what I thought were my best efforts, I'd feel really discouraged, but if you know what to look for, at least you can feel good and a little less helpless that you got them care and gave them a fighting chance...
 

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It really does seem like this info should be out there more than it is (I had no idea either). I feel like rescues should circulate it within their organizations. I know if I tried bottle feeding and my kittens died despite what I thought were my best efforts, I'd feel really discouraged, but if you know what to look for, at least you can feel good and a little less helpless that you got them care and gave them a fighting chance...
I thought the same thing! Why didnt our vets or emergency vets explain this to us????

Now that I look back there was one other kitten this might have been happening to. I was fostering several kittens and I and had to be out of town. Friends came by the feed them. One black kitten looked like it was sleeping. When friends came later they picked him up and he was limp and out cold. They frantically called one of our vets and she said give him dextrose water from the syringe. (I keep these ready and loaded in my butter keeper!)

Then they raced him up to the Emergency Vet in Tucson. They put him in a warm incubator and hydrated him some more. He recovered at the tune of over $300 when it was all said and done. The Emergency vets thought he fell in the kennel and knocked himself out but now I'm wondering if it was FKS? He wasn't a bottle baby but was starting to eat soft food. At that age of development could it still be FKS?
 

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I hate to admit this, having had cats all my life and thinking of myself as a caring and responsible owner, but I had never heard of this (although I guess I had seen it). Thank you for posting!
 

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Bear was on solid food when he got sick, but I don't know for sure if it was FKS or not :-/ That's a good point/question!
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I thought the same thing! Why didnt our vets or emergency vets explain this to us????

Now that I look back there was one other kitten this might have been happening to. I was fostering several kittens and I and had to be out of town. Friends came by the feed them. One black kitten looked like it was sleeping. When friends came later they picked him up and he was limp and out cold. They frantically called one of our vets and she said give him dextrose water from the syringe. (I keep these ready and loaded in my butter keeper!)

Then they raced him up to the Emergency Vet in Tucson. They put him in a warm incubator and hydrated him some more. He recovered at the tune of over $300 when it was all said and done. The Emergency vets thought he fell in the kennel and knocked himself out but now I'm wondering if it was FKS? He wasn't a bottle baby but was starting to eat soft food. At that age of development could it still be FKS?
Bear was on solid food when he got sick, but I don't know for sure if it was FKS or not :-/ That's a good point/question!
FKS generally affects kittens from neonatal to 15 weeks of age. Fading Kitten Syndrome isn't a disease or an illness. Syndromes are a collection of symptoms that behave in the same manner with the same final result, most syndromes are secondary diagnoses to an unknown diagnoses or an unconfirmed diagnoses.

For example, in humans, Broken Heart Syndrome is where the intense emotional OR physical stress causes rapid and severe heart muscle weakness. It's called Broken Heart Syndrome because it was first noticed as a collection of symptoms when people lost their loved ones.

Fading Kitten Syndrome is named thus because of the progression of symptoms. The body weight, muscle mass, alertness, and body temperature fade downward until the kittens are too sick to survive. The syndrome is usually secondary to:

Diet (Neonatals are always at risk if they are not being maintained by a queen) three stages in diet changes are noted to have kittens with FKS symptoms, nursing, weaning, and kittens that are put onto dry food diets that don't learn how to drink water (which is why high protein soft food is important)

Changes in temperature, environmental problems

Dehydration

Infectious diseases (FIP, FIV, FeLV, corona viruses, bacteria,
panleukopenia, toxoplasmosis, giardia, toxocara, herpes, chlamydia, calici virus, flea anemia)

Inborn errors in metabolism

Congenital malformation

Hereditary diseases (hydrocephalus, anencephaly, hemophelia, cleft palate, spina bifida, umbilica hernia, megaesophagus, portosystemic shunts, etc.)

Lack of colostrum

Maternal neglect and cannibalism


It can happen in adult cats but that is rare and secondary to other issues such as diabetes, renal disease, etc.
 

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Ah yes, then Bear's was second to his 3 parasitic infections... I think I understand now, thanks! Great knowledge for the future if I do ever get mama kitties or bottle babies.
 
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